The game of numbers: who leads in television viewership?

In the last five years, there has been tremendous growth in television viewership. Photo By Michael Kakumirizi.

What you need to know:

There has been a lot of chest-thumping in the television sector with players claiming to own larger audiences compared to their competitors. However, in two different released recently and analysed by Dorothy Nakaweesi, the numbers tell a different story showing who commands more viewership.

The noise in the television sector glossing over who owns which audience is hard to ignore, especially at a time when many if not majority of Ugandans depend on yellow journalism and rumours to drive debate and form opinions.
Indeed this is what Alex Rukundo, the Metropolitan Republic managing director calls “posturing in the market with each player trying to outdo the others”.

Rukundo, whose experience in marketing and advertising is range-bound, concedes that posturing is “part of a psychological warfare” that intends to tell “competitors how strong one is”, and at the same time “assure employees that they are still the leader, no matter the circumstances”.
Just like how he says there has been a lot of ‘posturing’ in the television sector with each station seeming to be in overdrive as they bid to convince viewers that their audience specifics and reach are next to none.
However, the difficult part has been delivering such claims loosely held by promises but not headlined by any numbers. In media, especially in television, numbers rule and others are just but excesses.

A survey conducted by Ipsos, a research firm, between August 20 and 31 found that television reach although still low, has had a huge impact on driving opinion and forming debate – albeit not considering the low penetration.
Twenty eight per cent of Ugandans, which represents about 2.053 million television sets, have access to television compared to 72 per cent of the population without access.
However, findings of the report seem to suggest that the battle ground is between two channels - NTV and Bukedde TV - with NTV having an upper hand across the country.

According to the survey, NTV has a combined percentage reach of 52 per cent compared to 43 per cent of Bukedde TV.
NBS TV comes in between with a distant reach of 16 per cent. NBS TV just like NTV is an English programmed television station.
Deeper into the survey, Bukedde TV holds off other channels in the central region but lacks the national appeal that NTV exudes in other parts of the country.
In three regions NTV has a percentage viewership of 69 per cent (north), 56 per cent (west) and 47 per cent (east) against Bukedde TV’s 4 per cent (north), 51 per cent (west) and 33 per cent (east).

NBS has a percentage reach of 27 per cent (central), 2 per cent (north), 9 per cent (east) and 14 per cent (west).
In another survey conducted between January and August, GeoPoll, a US - based research and media measurement firm but with offices across Africa and Asia, shows that NTV continued to grow its viewership amid stunted or drug-back growth for other channels.
For instance NTV grew its market share from 41 per cent in January to more than 52 per cent in August compared to Bukedde TV’s backward growth of 23 per cent in August from 29 per cent in January.
All other stations had a market share of less than 15 per cent in the period under review, according to GeoPoll.

But what is the catch in the numbers?
In an interview last week Aggie Konde, the NTV managing director seemed to chest thump, saying: “Numbers don’t lie, people do,” emphasising that they have heavily invested in their human resource and the results of their investment have been rubber-stumped by various research findings.
But amid the good ratings NTV has in the recent past lost some of its staff to NBS TV, whose chief executive officer, Kin Kariisa believes Ipsos could have erred in giving them a mere 16 per cent reach.
“We believe we are far better than what was portrayed,” Kariisa told this newspaper, adding “Just take a walk in the city and see what station people are watching.”

Similarly, just like Kariisa, Susan Nsibirwa, the head of marketing and communication at New Vision Printing and Publishing Company, the parent company of Bukedde TV, claims there could be serious flaws in collection and interpretation of data in relation to research objectives.
“…we have at least three international firms doing media research such as Ipsos, Consumer Insight and GeoPoll and with each of them we have serious issues with their methodology,” she said.
However, Virginia Nkwanzi, the Ipsos managing director said she could not comment on the claims promising to give a detailed explanation at a later stage.
Surveys conducted by both Ipsos and GeoPoll put NTV ahead of other television stations.

But beyond the numbers is the issue of innovation that Muhereza Kyamutetera says could be the next kingpin on which viewership will be tilted.
Kyamutetera, who is the founder and managing director of Corporate Image, an advertising and media relations firm, says television has become so innovative with a number of stations coming up with unique packages that could help them dig into other channel’s market share.
However, this, Kyamutetera says, could be costly for advertisers because television viewership seems to be fragmented.

“Audiences are now following between four and five television channels. This means advertisers need to be on more than three channels which makes it more expensive,” he says.
An Ipsos survey conducted in 2014 indicated that at least 20 companies spent a screaming Shs613b on image building and brand marketing.
The expenditure, according to Ipsos, was a 5 per cent growth on media spend compared to Shs584b in 2013.
The catch, according to Kyamutetera, will be that television channels with a wider reach will have an edge in a market that seems to be saturated.

But beyond having budgets, advertisers will be looking for who can best deliver their message as a number of audiences were wiped out with the implementation of digital migration.
Advertisers, according to Rukundo, have already deliberated efforts to cut back on their expenditure, especially for television stations, whose audiences were affected by digital migration.
Bukedde TV, as Nsibirwa admits, could have been affected by digital migration but continues to see growth, especially among key audiences up-country.

The need to grow local content
In a recent survey conducted by Uganda Communications Commission NBS TV led others in terms of generating local content, which Godfrey Mutabazi, the UCC executive director says could be still expensive but vital.
“We want local content to grow that is why we encourage growth of Uganda’s film industry. It could be hard for advertisers to advertise and support the growth of local content but we need it,” he says.

Similarly Nathan Were, a financial inclusion specialist thinks competition is good as will help players in the industry to curve out their niche markets.
Competition, he says, will help players to “focus their content and programming to specifically target niche markets as cut-throat is not sustainable in the long run”.